The Epistles belong, as well as the Satires,
to Horace's Musa pedestris. They are, like them, conversational moral
or literary essays (Sermones; cf. II.1.250), of which the topics are
suggested by current events or occasional moods and relations. They were not,
however, called Sermones by the ancients, nor do they have they title
in the manuscripts, but have always been called Epistulae. They differ
from the Satires in being connected in some manner with some particular person
to whom each is addressed. They are not, to be sure, letters like those of Cicero
and Pliny, originally intended for private reading and afterwards collected
and published. They were from the first intended for the public. But it must
be remembered that publication in ancient times was a different matter from
what it is nowadays. The author sent his manuscript to be read and copied, and
it would be put on sale if it was found to be popular. The only difference between
these letters and other compositions was probably that these were first sent
to the person addressed and afterwards copied by his permission. They were written
after Horace's fame became established, so that any person was honored by being
associated with one of his compositions. But the association is not merely one
of dedication. Each one seems to have been suggested by some condition of mind,
trait of character, or temporary situation of the person addressed. So that
there is something personal and intimate in the tone and matter of each of them.
The date of their composition is not exactly fixed except in a few cases, but
they belong to the latter part of the poet's life (see I.3; I.20), about B.C.
20-12, later than any other of his works, except some occasional Odes and the
Carmen Saeculare. They consequently have
a less acrid tone, giving evidence of a mellower and more philosophical way
of thinking, and dwell particularly upon ethical subjects, treating them more
in the style of common-places and with less personal attack than in the Satires.
The second book is entirely devoted to the discussion of literary topics, and is probably the last of the poet's works. It seems to have been begun at the request of Augustus, and lacks something of the spontaneity of the other works. It is chiefly interesting as giving Horace's personal views on poetic composition, and has always been looked upon as containing the ultimate canons of poetic art.
-- Introduction from The Satires and Epistles of Horace, ed. J.B. Greenough, Ginn & Company: Boston, 1888.
|Epistularum Liber Primus:||Latin Text||The source of the text and translation notes is The Satires and Epistles of Horace, ed. J.B. Greenough, Ginn & Company: Boston, 1888.|
|Epistularum Liber Secundus:||Latin Text|
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